Double Dragon

Normally, I stand firmly in the camp of waste not, want not, but I cannot tell a lie—many, many napkins were harmed in the making of this story. It’s inevitable, because when this hip little Division Street sandwich joint slings a pork belly, roast duck, or heaven help you, its meatball monstrosity onto the pick-up counter, you best head straight for the napkin dispenser—or better yet, get everything to go and eat at home in the shower.

When this hip, humble little Southeast sandwich joint slings its meatball monstrosity onto the pick-up counter, you best head straight for the napkin dispenser—or better yet, just get everything to go and eat at home in the shower.

Buoyed by a background that includes Momofuku, Beast and Bunk, chef-owner Rob Walls creates Vietnamese-inspired riffs on the traditional banh mi, but with soft, supple rolls in place of crisp baguettes, and locally-sourced pork, beef and poultry in place of the mystery meat. They dwarf the small tin plates they’re served on, and once in hand, they drip, they crunch, they squish, they gush, and then, somehow, they disappear—call it a banh mi blackout, call it superhuman strength in the face of culinary adversity, whatever it is, you should be proud.

But lest I dwell too long on the sandwiches, know that non-sandwich offerings are exemplary too—branch out and experience the spicy green papaya salad, sweet roasted carrot soup with Thai basil and candied hazelnut salsa verde, coconut milk-based curry ramen, kimchi-topped Kobe beef dog, garlicky pan-roasted chicken oysters, and crunchy-crusted tempura-battered fried chicken with bacon-braised collard greens. Don’t start what you can’t finish–every last bite of the epic five-spice bacon and dragon relish-topped burger should be gone by dessert time or you don’t get a Le Cookie Monster-made coconut cookie from the case by the register. Just kidding, in my world, you always get your cookie. Always.

Inside, the shop is a careful patchwork of reclaimed wood and window walls bisected with simple slab bars that afford you a front row seat of the hustle and bustle of the Division and 12th hub, while the back room has whimsical touches like tables wrapped in Vietnamese comics, a twinkle light-entwined travel poster, and a few exotic totchkes like the vintage Vietnamese phrase book you won’t need because as the sign over the bar informs, there’s “a white fellow from NJ” in the kitchen.

Last but not least, it’s advisable that you enter the Dragon’s lair thirsty, because the bar doesn’t miss a trick, and you shouldn’t miss the dirty Thai iced tea, Hou Hou Shu sparkling sake, or Scotch, watermelon, lime, and kombu tincture-kissed Glass Case of Emotion.

Details

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Executive Chef: Rob Walls

Owner: Rob Walls

Atmosphere: Laid back, stylish spot overlooking a busy Division Street intersection, lots of windows and light, nice mellow vibe

Outdoor seating: Yes, several picnic tables in the tree-specked front patio area along SE Division

Best Seat: A sunlit table in the front window

Noise Level: Quiet to normal in the main dining room depending on occupancy levels, boisterous in the back room when full

Dress Code: Casual

Bring the Kids: Yes

Bathrooms: In the back dining room

Parking: Free but can be challenging to find, your best bet is to turn off crazy SE Division onto quiet SE Elliot to find a spot

Cocktails: Full bar and 8 signature cocktails, $9

Beer: Four brews on tap, a handful of bottled/canned beers

Wine: No

Sake: Yes

Teetotalers: Jarritos, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, CocoRico, Mexican Coke, Reed’s Ginger Brew

Coffee: Stumptown French press and Vietnamese iced coffee

Tea: Thai iced tea

Ideal Meal: Green papaya salad, roast duck banh mi, beef noodle soup, pan-roasted chicken oysters, papaya dog, burger, fried chicken, coconut cookie

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes

Vegan Friendly: Yes

Gluten Free: Yes, several clearly marked GF dishes are on the menu

Good for the following occasions: Lunch With Friends, Dining Solo, Casual Date, Family Dinner

Catering: With at least 24 hours, they can deliver orders of 15 sandwiches or more anywhere within Portland, just call 503.230.8340

Reservations: No

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No, except for large orders of 15+ sandwiches (see catering info)

Catering: With at least 24 hours, they can deliver orders of 15 sandwiches or more anywhere within Portland, just call 503.230.8340